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Close-up with magician Julian Stewart

Julian StewartMagic used to be about pulling rabbits from a hat, sawing your assistant in half, or some other big stage gimmick. These days, Christchurch magician Julian Stewart says, a different type of magic is king.

I don’t do stage magic – this is close-up magic – it’s different. A lot of young people today are doing close-up magic.

It’s more fun and easier to learn for young people. Everyone’s seen most of the stage magic that’s out there.

Want to learn magic?

Visit Julian’s myspace page for some example videos.

Julian says he was always interested in magic, but didn’t start seriously until he was about 18.

I was in Japan and I saw a street magician. He didn’t speak – it was all silent and he was amazing. He did all this magic and fire magic and making objects disappear. I introduced myself afterwards and he put me on the right track.

His first trick was making something disappear.

Once I saw people’s reactions from a simple trick I was hooked – I just had to keep learning more and more.

Courses on offer

With his magic skills well honed, Julian is back in Christchurch and is running courses to teach magic to students at the South Learning Centre. The courses are based on the work he did on a “first-of-its-kind” DVD that takes people from beginners to performing magicians.

We had to include about 100 tricks. To be a magician you need mastery of the areas of magic – cards, coins, everyday objects and mentalism, getting into your thoughts. If you’ve got all of those areas covered with a good array of tricks then you are a magician.

We created the DVD and now I’ve converted those tricks into my programme. Students will learn all these 90 tricks and at the end of the course they will have to perform. If that’s up to par they get a magic certificate and my DVD, so they don’t forget.

The course runs for close to three months and students must attend twice a week.
“Students will be taking notes and writing down how to do the tricks and they’ve got to practice at home.

There are three rules in magic, Julian says.
It’s the magician’s code. The first rule is never do a trick twice. The second rule is never reveal a secret, and the third rule is never do a trick if you are not good enough to perform it.

It takes a lot of time in front of the mirror. I’ve just bought thirty mirrors to put on the tables so students can practice in class.

The mirror’s the best thing you can buy.

Low-risk, high reward

Magic is well placed to make a bit of a splash in Christchurch, where a lot of outdoor entertainment is by buskers who do physical entertainment, serious juggling and dangerous stunts, or musicians.

That stuff’s pretty hard. With magic, I love it because you can sit down and learn a trick in 20 minutes that will amaze people. Once you’ve got a few of those up your sleeve you can walk into a room and you know you can blow away the whole room. ₀ It’s quite easy to learn – little input and big output.

There’s always good tricks – it depends on the audience. Some people see something disappear and they’ll go crazy. Some people just smile. I’ve been to quite a few countries now – Japan, Taiwan, Thailand – magic is an amazing tool. Anyone who’s got that curiosity should learn.

Practice is vital, Julian says.
Every move your reputation is on the line. If you screw up once people are going to leave and think you’re crap.

Break the ice with a magic trick

Learning magic also has a few other benefits.

Magic is an excellent icebreaker if you want to meet the opposite sex. If like somebody, or you want to get to know somebody, or expand your social circle or just want to meet people in general, magic is probably the best tool out there. I can meet a group of people and do a trick for them and I’m automatically in that group – nothing else can do that.

January 2009